Rounding out the Holy Quadrilogy of RPGs on the SNES (Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, Final Fantasy III (aka VI), and Chrono Trigger), Secret of Evermore offered up gorgeous graphics, a story that spanned the breadth of your imagination, and a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack that still gives me goosebumps to this day.
With an interface that’s heavily inspired by its unofficial sibling Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore grabbed me in a way that few other games ever have. While many consider it inferior to SoM, I personally put it in the same class: there’s just something incredibly unique and amazing about SoE that’s difficult to explain. It’s got a distinct personality and humor to it that has stuck with me ever since it came out. It may have something to do with the fact that I had just entered sixth grade, so perhaps I was overly impressionable then, but whatever the reason, even after the untold thousands of hours I’ve spent gaming, Secret of Evermore is still in my top 3 of all time.
Thankfully, just like many of the RPGs from that era, it stands up to the level of nostalgia I’ve bestowed upon it. This is still an engaging, entertaining, and perplexing (if not relatively easy) game. The alchemy system can still be frustrating at times (screw you, mud peppers! I got rocks to move!), but overall it’s a system I enjoy. The collecting and hoarding aspect it provides is immensely entertaining, and when you finally obtain that one ingredient you’ve been hoping to find for hours, there’s a certain sense of glory you get to bask in. It also brought a strategic aspect to the game, forcing you to be smart about how and when you use your Alchemy skills. Do you really HAVE to use that spell to beat those trash mobs? Does victory REALLY require you to use up the last of your reagents for that particular spell?
Visually, the game still looks great. The color palette is varied and bright, giving each of the game’s worlds a distinct look. You can almost feel the dirt and grit on your hand, the arid dusty desert parching your lips, and the chill from long metal hallways reaching right down to your very bones. The animations still look great as well, providing the smoothness and detail that developers were achieving this late into the SNES’ life cycle.
The various sound effects are decent, although they serve more as a vehicle for nostalgia at this point than anything else. There’s some truly original and clever ones, but for the most part, they’ll just bring back memories more than anything else. The same cannot be said for the soundtrack, however; it’s just as beautiful as it was back in the day, perhaps more now than ever. We’d be sitting here all day if I wanted to go over the whole soundtrack, but here’s just a few of my favorites.
The music from the Greek Temple:
Who could forget this little ditty from the White Castle Town:
And naturally, there’s the haunting bit that plays while your dog has to go through the maze:
It’s difficult to convey just how much I truly love Secret of Evermore. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll admit that it isn’t perfect, but there’s something magical and beautiful about it that few games could ever hope to come close to. The original cartridge can be found relatively cheaply on eBay, so if you’re looking to play this one, don’t fret: it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to do so.
Also, if you’re interested in learning about the technical aspects of the game, its business origins, and why it shipped without a co-op component, Nintendo Life did a FANTASTIC interview with Secret of Evermore’s lead programmer Brian Fehdrau back in 2009.